John Charles: Gentle Giant

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Random House, Jun 22, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 272 pages

‘Whenever I look at him, it is as though the Messiah has returned.’ That's how Jimmy Murphy, manager of Wales’ 1958 World Cup side, described John Charles. In Italy, where he played for Juventus and Roma, Charles was known as Il Gigante Buono – the Gentle Giant – because of his placid temperament.

One of the greatest footballers Britain has ever produced, Charles left his native Swansea at 16 to join Leeds United, where his phenomenal strike rate helped the club reach the First Division for the first time in its history. His goal-scoring exploits at Ellan Road then attracted the attention of Juventus, who paid a British record of £65,000 to take him to Turin in 1957. Charles went on to score an incredible 105 goals in 178 appearances for I Bianconeri – the Black and Whites – and helped them to win three Series A titles in five years.

In contrast to his humble upbringing in South Wales, he enjoyed a glamorous lifestyle in Italy. However, it was not all glory. A disasterous return to Leeds United in 1962 was followed by a spell at Roma, where he struggled to recapture his past form. The man who was treated as a god in Turin wound down his playing career with Cardiff City before turning to management in the Southern League.

This detailed and engrossing biography contains candid interviews with former teammates and family members and follows Charles’ life after football, detailing his failed business ventures and his brave fight against cancer.

 

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Contents

CHAPTER ONE FAREWELL SWANSEA
CHAPTER TWO BUCKLEYS BOY
CHAPTER THREE PRINCE OF ELLAND ROAD
CHAPTER FOUR THE 65000 MAN
CHAPTER FIVE IL GIGANTE BUONO
CHAPTER SIX YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU
CHAPTER SEVEN TEARS IN GOTHENBURG
CHAPTER EIGHT LA FINE
CHAPTER NINE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL SON
CHAPTER TEN BACK HOME
CHAPTER ELEVEN LISBON LION
CHAPTER TWELVE CIDER COWS AND COCKUPS
CHAPTER THIRTEEN DIAL M FOR MERTHYR
CHAPTER FOURTEEN FALLEN IDOL
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About the author (2012)

Mario Risoli is a journalist and writer. His first book, When Pelé Broke Our Hearts, made the Sunday Times top-ten bestseller list and Arrivederci Swansea: The Giorgia Chinaglia Story, also received critical acclaim. He lives and works in Wales.

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